Ingredients that make a good farmer

Fidelis Zvomuya speaks to Grain SA Emerging Grain Producer of the Year finalist
Elias ­Pangane and finds out about his bean production practices that contribute to yields of approximately five tons per hectare.

Fidelis Zvomuya speaks to Grain SA Emerging Grain Producer of the Year finalist
Elias ­Pangane and finds out about his bean production practices that contribute to yields of approximately five tons per hectare.

Elias Pangane grew up in the Kruger National Park and after passing matric worked for a company in Germiston until 1984. Then he returned to Limpopo to help his father farm. As a youngster his father imparted a love for farming to Elias and this passion was further nurtured when he studied agriculture at school.
In 1990 his dream was realised when he started his own farming enterprise on 18ha at the Lost and Found communal farm in the Mkhuhlu district in Limpopo. He produced maize, vegetables and cotton, and two years ago he started with sugar beans. He runs 70 Bonsmaras on this land and last season he sold 30.
Last season he produced 15 tons of sugar beans and over 30 tons of ­butternuts, which he sold on the informal market in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga. He produces between four and five tons of sugar beans per hectare, and an average of six tons of butternuts per hectare.
His nomination as a Grain SA ­Emerging Grain Producer of the Year finalist is based on his bean production practice. He planted on 3ha of land with an estimated population of 177 000 plants per hectare. Elias’s sugar bean production costs are on average R3 000/ha, which then sells at R4 600/t on the informal market.
In 2003 he was forced to stop commercial maize production due to poor prices. Now he only produces the crop for his three workers, his livestock and family.
Elias says beans are annual crops which thrive in warm climates. He irrigates with water from the Sabie River, which is about 1,5km from his farm. He uses ­sprinkler irrigation and has realised that it offers the potential for increased yields compared to rain-fed crops.
In the past, Elias says, he experienced low productivity due to high temperatures, especially during the flowering stage. This led to abscission of flowers and low pod set, resulting in yield losses. But since he started working with Grain SA, which advised him on optimal planting times, this has become a thing of the past.

Understanding the production cycle
”To enter the farming industry you need to know and understand the production cycle. This includes soil preparation, plant nutrient requirements, planting and production practices, weed and pest control, and harvesting,” says Elias. ”These are the ingredients that make a good farmer.”
Ten years ago Elias established his relationship with Grain SA. Since then he has learned most of the technical aspects of farming – everything from suitable planting dates, correct soil temperatures and how to take care of his crops.
“Before working with Grain SA, I faced many problems. Now I know best how to solve them. Grain SA representatives also visit my farm on a weekly basis and they continue to help me,” Elias says.
According to him, sugar beans grow optimally in well-drained soil. This led him to introduce the crop on his farm.
Beans need effective weed control as they are low-growing plants and compete with weeds for nutrients and sunlight. “Early weed control is extremely ­important because the root systems of the plant develop at these stages,” Elias says.

Success, but not without setbacks
Earlier this year Elias experienced a major setback when veld fires ravaged his grazing lands. This has severely impacted on his bottom line as he now has to purchase fodder and other animal feeds to bridge the gap created by the loss of grazing areas.
“Livestock is central to every emerging farmer’s ­production. It is a source of finance because the animals are sold to raise money to purchase farming inputs such as ­chemicals, ­fertilisers and to pay for labour,” Elias says.
According to him the continued burning of veld and pastures on communal lands is threatening the economic viability, and farming and agricultural diversification attempts which emerging ­farmers undertake to beat the poor and low market prices that they’re getting for crops such as maize. He stresses that the repercussions of these fires are unimaginable in some cases and most farmers lose valuable assets, crops and ultimately income in the process.
One of the major hurdles he faces is access to production
credit. As he farms on communal land that cannot be used to secure a loan from financial institutions, Elias finances his own farming operation.

Grain SA finalist criteria
The Grain SA Emerging Grain Producer of the Year is an annual event that recognises the outstanding performance of a developing grain farmer. The competition doesn’t focus on the size of the land planted, but rather on the farmer’s production practices. In 2005, Moses Malo of North West walked away with the title. This year’s other nominees are Basie Ruben Ntsimane from Kanana in Rustenburg, North West and Lazarus Mothusi from Lichtenburg, North West.
For more information contact Elias Pangane on 083 459 9176. |fw

Grain SA Emerging Grain Farmer of the Year ­finalist Elias Pangane of Mkhuhlu, Limpopo.